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'I'm going to fight with them until the end'

'I'm going to fight with them until the end'

After six innings of work on Sunday, the Stephen Strasburg innings count now sits at 156.1 and the expected shutdown range of 160-180 innings is quickly approaching. Neither Strasburg, Mike Rizzo, or Davey Johnson will say exactly when he will be shutdown, but it has been narrowed to his next two starts.

I think two starts. Unless I let him pitch 10 the next one out, which Im not going to. I think his last start will be on the 12th, Johnson said.

Rizzo wasnt quite as specific.

It depends on the same thing its always depended on. When we feel that hes had enough in and around that area of innings, and we take into account all the things weve talked about taking into account, stressful innings, pitches, and that type of thing, then well make that decision and shut him down.

According to Strasburg, he hasnt been talking with management about the subject as much as one might think. He is keeping his approach day-by-day, trying to block everything out. But with the end of his season apparently near, the Nats ace did acknowledge something will have to happen soon.

Im just focused on the next start. Thats all I can really focus on right now. But were going to have to have a sit down and talk here soon, he said.

When asked about sitting down to talk?

Im going to fight with them until the end. Thats all Ive got to say.

It appears what has maybe been delayed by those in D.C. and in the organization, what has been fixated on in the national media, is now finally about to come to its end. It of course isnt an easy decision, and with the competitive nature between the two, it is natural for Strasburg to have his reservations about the move.

Rizzo is confident, however, that two sides will come to an understanding that whatever happens in the future will fall on his shoulders.

I dont think hes going to fight me on it, I think hes going to be unhappy about it, I know hell be unhappy about it. He is an ultimate competitor, but weve taken that out of his hands, he said.

This is a developmental decision and it ultimately falls on the doorstep of the general manager and weve made it. Weve made it five months ago and were going to stick to it.

Rizzo is aware of the national attention the subject has received, but he is firm in his beliefs and has all the information he needs to back it up.

Stephen Strasburg is one of the most popular players in baseball and it is a good conversational piece. It is a debatable subject, but most of the people who have weighed in on this know about ten percent of the information that we know, that weve made our opinion and based it on.

Rizzo was asked if Jordan Zimmermann, a year ahead of Strasburg in the recovery from Tommy John, presents a good example of the plan working. The Nats general manager expanded that notion to include other young arms such as Ross Detwiler and Lucas Giolito, and believes nothing should change that stance.

Just because were in a different position in the standings, were not going to forego my philosophy of player development and keeping pitchers healthy and weve been consistent with it throughout.

Nobody believes the Nationals are as good a team without Strasburg, he is one of the best pitchers in the league and the staffs true ace. But Rizzo is at peace with their talent moving forward this season, with or without the former number one pick.

I think weve got four of the top pitchers in the National League, I think all of them can go out there and win you a game under duress in a playoff atmosphere. I think that theyre ultra-talented and theyre stuff-guys and I think theyre going to be tough to deal with for any team that we play against.

Taking Strasburgs place in the rotation will be John Lannan, a veteran who held a 3.71 ERA last season through 184.2 innings in 2011. You could certainly have worse backup plans than that.

It was part of our plan at the beginning was to be very deep at starting pitcher. It was one of the reasons why we signed Edwin Jackson when people thought we didnt need him, he said.

It was one of the reasons why people thought we were looking to trade John Lannan when, unless we got blown away by a good deal we knew that John Lannan was going to pitch important innings for us sometime this year and the time is about ready for him to get here.

If the Nationals fail to win the World Series, it could be shutting down Strasburg that people point to as the difference. Rizzo knows that, the Nationals know that. But Johnson has won a World Series before and thinks his team has the depth and character to battle through any type of situation.

Weve faced adversity all year long. We didnt have our cleanup hitter, we didnt have our closer. We lost our starting catcher, we lost Jayson Werth for two months, he said.

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Podcast: 'Baseball in the District' - Can Nats win without Ramos?

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Podcast: 'Baseball in the District' - Can Nats win without Ramos?

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It was a tough series of days to begin the week for the Washington Nationals, who saw Wilson Ramos go down with a torn ACL on Monday night and Stephen Strasburg essentially be ruled out for the NL Division Series on Tuesday. Those two developments came on the heels of Bryce Harper's injury on Sunday, though Harper's X-ray did come back negative.

We opened the show this week with a discussion about Ramos and whether the Nats can win the World Series without him. We continued to talk about how the Nats match up with the Dodgers, then finished with thoughts on the tragic loss of Marlins superstar Jose Fernandez.

Feel free to share your opinions with us on Twitter @ChaseHughesCSN and @1TimMurray.

You can listen to the show on ESPN 980's website or download the show on iTunes.

[RELATED: Dodgers set rotation for playoff series against Nationals]

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Stock Watch: Scherzer nearing the 20 win mark

Stock Watch: Scherzer nearing the 20 win mark

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-2

Team slash: .269/.339/.426

Team ERA: 5.17

Runs per game: 6.2

 

STOCK UP 

Max Scherzer, SP: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 18 K

Another start, another win for Scherzer, who continues to make his case for the NL Cy Young Award. In fact, the Nats have won the last nine starts he’s made, while he’s posted a 2.87 ERA and 69-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over that span. In Sunday’s season finale, the 31-year-old right hander will get a shot to earn his 20th win, a feat that would put the finishing touch on a stellar second season in D.C.

Reynaldo Lopez, RP:  1-0, 5.1 IP, 6 K, 0 ER

Given the circumstances, Saturday’s outing by Lopez might have been the finest of his rookie season. Coming in relief of Joe Ross in the third inning, the 24-year-old flamethrower tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Pirates on the night that clinched the NL East title for the Nats. The performance was so impressive that Dusty Baker said after he’d consider adding Lopez to the playoff roster as a long man.

STOCK DOWN

Yusmeiro Petit, RP: 2 GP, 0-1, 2.0 IP, 5 ER

The Nats have a little over a week to configure their 25-man playoff roster, and the hardest part of the process might be putting together the bullpen. As mentioned earlier, Baker is considering adding Lopez as a potential long man. If that’s the case, would it come at Petit’s expense?

Lucas Giolito, RP:  1 GP, 2.0 IP, 4 ER   

The Nats starting rotation — especially when healthy — was obviously one of the driving forces of the team’s NL East title. That said, one of the more disappointing developments of 2016 was Giolito not emerging like the club hoped he would this year. Whether it was in a starting role or out of the bullpen, the 22-year-old prospect never quite showed the elite fastball he was said to have in the minors. Instead, he's throwing his heater in the low 90s, not fooling anyone in The Show. Of course, there's plenty of time for Giolito to progress and become the top-line starter the Nats expect him to be someday. But for now, there seems to be a larger-than-expected gap between what he is and what he could be. 

[MORE: DODGERS SET ROTATION FOR PLAYOFF SERIES AGAINST NATIONALS]